Hallelujah Pilgrims! My LOVE of NATURE often startles me. Living on the edge of Atlanta, a city populated by five million humans, I find myself incredibly challenged to HONOR MYSELF in relationship to this great ancient altar: NATURE. Within all that is vegetative and animal is the fabric of bouncing molecular energy. And from this ENERGY flows ETERNAL SACRED IMAGES. But where to FIND this ENERGY and EXPERIENCE these IMAGES?
In our Decatur townhome, Chiboogamoo and I live amidst concrete roads, pathways, and walls with only north facing windows. Within our shadowy walled enclosure, we harbor parsley plants for the sheer pleasure of seducing butterflies to enter our lives. Our birdfeeders house “peppered” sunflower seeds to attract the local finches and occasional woodpeckers to our windows and successfully discourage the squirrels who visit everyday to shred calcium from the cow’s skull I have hanging on the east garden wall. How my HEART BURST with WONDER this past June when I witnessed baby praying mantises dispersing across the wall above our front door!
For me, this HEART BURSTING WONDER is magnified a hundred fold when I am visiting along the Georgia coast on one of its numerous barrier islands—Cumberland, Sapelo, Ossabaw, Little St. Simons, and St Catherines—to name a few. These slender finger like islands built from accruing and eroding sands for almost 50,000 years are fortresses of ancient maritime forests towering behind oozing muddy marshes which release their rich organics out into the ocean’s eternal ebb and flow. ENERGY VIBRATES HERE.
(How magical these Georgia barrier islands are. On Christmas Eve 2008, I saw this photograph of a fish crow on a young buck's back displayed on Royce Hayes' fridge in his home on the island of St. Catherine and knew I had to paint it! How surprised I was when he as the island manager picked up the phone and called the island's ornithologist, Jen Hilburn, and asked her to make me a copy! It appeared on our cabin's doorstep that afternoon. Island hospitality!)
I must say here that I am knowledgeable of these Georgia Golden Isles because of my Chiboogamoo. As he nears the completion of his book, “Life Traces of the Georgia Coast,” we marvel at the beauty that exists a 200-mile drive and ferry ride from our townhome front door. His research and documentation of the thriving wildlife on these everchanging and moving islands has brought us into the caring hospitality of island naturalists such as Jim Bitler, John Crawford, Jen Hilburn, Scott Coleman, and Carol Ruckdeschel.(Here I am with my Chiboogamoo on Cumberland. Vernon J. Henry and Carol Ruckdeschel took us there to look at a Pleistocene outcrop in December 2008.)
My sweetheart and brilliant husband Chiboogamoo has had me accompany him on these island adventures as his worthy assistant and sincere LOVER of NATURE. Hallelujah! HALLELUJAH! H A L L E L U J A H ! ! ! Zeroing in on my AUTHENTICITY, I greet all that I see and all of those that I meet as COLLABORATORS in my PILGRIMAGE, my quest to find and document the ETERNAL SACRED IMAGES. The beaches, marshes, forests, and ponds THRIVE with LIFE. Most recently, Gale Bishop has been posting daily photos from St Catherines as baby turtles emerge from their deep sandy nests along the dunes into the endless moving sea—an eternal cycle of life, one for the sea turtles that has been going on for more than 100 million years.
Last week in the middle of September, Carol Ruckdeschel, a naturalist living on Cumberland, was kind enough to send me some images of the black vultures that are part of her daily environment on this southern most Georgia barrier island. I had asked her for “island” stories in my absence of experiencing island NATURE directly for the past six months. These vulture photos were her response, and they were ENOUGH. Carol’s portrait of a vulture spoke to me profoundly and deeply. I had to paint this greatly misaligned bird, despised by humans because of its carrion feeding ways, in the way that Carol had captured it.
I titled my portrait, “I AM HERE.” I use the verb “to be” in present tense to address the simultaneous presence of LIFE and DEATH that the vulture represents to me. While being very much alive and experiencing hunger, parenthood, the breeze through pine trees, this bird also reminds me that I one day will be carrion but long after its own demise. I AM HERE. Yes, be present to THE NOW. I have a goal in MY PILGRIMAGE, my creative odyssey: to greet TRUTH with a HALLELUJAH! Hence my name—Hallelujah Truth. Hallelujah Black Vulture! Hallelujah NATURE!
I began this blog entry with the question as to how to find and experience the ENERGY of these ETERNAL SACRED IMAGES found in NATURE. My answer is this:
Fellow Pilgrims, follow your intuition, listening to what you already know. Our spiritual paths are often a rediscovering of what we already know deeply within ourselves. Honor nature and see how its life reflects back your interior.
This carrion eating bird is essentially me, as much as a sea turtle or American oyster catcher! I AM HERE. YOU ARE HERE. WE ARE NATURE! Hallelujah!